Genealogy Road Trip Tip 8: Finalize travel arrangements

Tip 8: Finalize travel arrangements. Part of “Genealogy Road Trip Tips: Take Your Loved Ones With You” — 30 posts in 30 days for NaBloPoMo 2016.

You and your travel partner are nearly ready to embark on your much anticipated Genealogy Road Trip. You know your dates and destination; you’ve packed your research materials and gear.

By: Karen
Tickets, passports, driver licenses, itinerary — work with your travel partner to finalize travel arrangements before your trip. By: Karen

Now you need to finalize your travel arrangements to be sure everything is in order.

This presents your first real test as trip partners — so  be sure you are on the same page with these items:

Are your accommodations confirmed? You or your travel partner should call ahead confirm your accommodations — even if they have been sent to you by email. Is the room you want still available? Can you check in early or late? If you’ll be staying with family or friends, check in with them about a week to confirm the arrangements — and to allow you enough time to make alternate plans if there are any changes.

How are you getting there? If you are traveling by air or ground transportation, where and what time will you meet? Will you each be responsible for your own tickets, or purchase them together? How will you proceed if one of you is unavoidably late? If you are driving, will it be in your car, your travel partner’s or a rental? Who’s driving, who’s navigating, or will you take turns? You want to iron out all the details well ahead of time so there is no confusion on the day of departure.

Food, maps and other trip essentials. For a car trip, you may want to pack some food — so coordinate menu preferences ahead of time. Most folks have car or cellphone GPS these days, but I am still a believer in bringing along hard-copy maps for the primary driving routes. Also nice to have on hand: a windshield sunscreen, to cool the car when parked, and a snow/ice scraper (for those surprise late spring/early fall freezes). Work out who’s bringing what to be sure nothing is forgotten — including passports and driver licenses.

Any last check-ins? Do you want to call/email staff at any repositories to confirm your arrival times? Double check hours of operation for cemeteries, government offices or libraries? Check the advance weather forecast to pack appropriately? You and your travel partner can divide up these tasks — and brainstorm any other last-minute details.

What’s on your travel checklist? Share your own tips in the comments section.

Up next, Tip 9: Hit the road. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Genealogy Road Trip Tip 7: Test and pack your gear

Tip 7: Test and pack your gear. Part of “Genealogy Road Trip Tips: Take Your Loved Ones With You” — 30 posts in 30 days for NaBloPoMo 2016.

We all travel with electronic equipment nowadays — cell phones, tablets, laptops, chargers. But a Genealogy Road Trip requires a bit of extra gear to help you capture your research findings and download them when you get back.

By: sean hobson

In addition, testing your equipment before you leave is vital to make sure everything functions as it should in the field.

Start with the basics

So what equipment will you need? Here’s a starter list, which you can add to depending on what you and your travel partner will be doing on your Genealogy Road Trip.

Cell phone. If you and/or you travel partner have a smartphone, load some apps that will help you on your trip. Everything from a scanning app to cemetery finders to maps and, of course, an app that will display your family tree. Plus a translation app if traveling abroad. Add phone numbers you will need at your destination — then test everything to be sure it all works before you go.

Selfie stick. Toss in an inexpensive selfie stick to snap memory-rich outdoor cell-phone photos of you and your travel partner at the destination (Spoiler alert: many repositories don’t allow selfie sticks inside.)

Tablet. A light-weight tablet with a built-in or detachable keyboard should serve you pretty well in the field. This, too, can be loaded with helpful apps — and the tablet camera may be better than your phone’s for shooting documents, photos and other items on the go. If WiFi will be dodgy at the location, add airtime to your tablet so you can go online as needed.

Laptop. While tablets are handy, the more robust capabilities of a laptop computer may be more helpful in a repository for downloading or entering data about your ancestors.

Digital camera and tripod. A nice, lightweight digital camera and tripod can be helpful. Sometimes a digital camera captures more detail than a cell phone or tablet photo. And digital cameras are nice for house photos and panoramic landscapes.

Chargers, chargers, chargers. Test and pack whatever you will need for all you devices — along with extra batteries for devices that use them!

Add in the extras

Portable scanner. For scanning documents on your trip, there are many lightweight hand-held scanners available that do the job nicely — either the wand variety or small, flatbed scanners that can stitch together a large document from its scanned parts. Test to be sure the device works with your computer so you can download items on your return.

Digital voice recorder. If you plan any oral history interviews, pick up a lightweight digital voice recorder. Do a mock interview and test it with your computer before you go. Be sure you can record; rewind and play; download an interview  and save it to your cloud storage. And bring along the instructions just in case.

Location-specific gear. A water sprayer can bring out the lettering on a tombstone without damaging it to enhance your photos. I love my Rite in the Rain notebook, with waterproof pages that let you take notes even in a downpour.

For a U.S. Civil War reenactment, I packed a shower curtain to spread on the ground — good thing, too, because it rained for three days before the event! Bug repellent, sunscreen, water bottles — check your plan and make a list of everything you and your travel partner might need on the trip.

What else, what else? Please add your favorite travel gear in the comments section.

Then join me for tomorrow’s Tip 8: Finalize travel arrangements.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Genealogy Road Trip Tip 6: Pack research materials

Tip 6: Pack research materials. Part of “Genealogy Road Trip Tips: Take Your Loved Ones With You” — 30 posts in 30 days for NaBloPoMo 2016.

Once you and your travel partner have made a Genealogy Road Trip plan, it’s time to pack research materials to take with you. These can be hard copies or electronic versions accessible through your laptop or hand-held devices — either are fine, as long as you can quickly refer to them while at your destination.

Pension Records
Bring must-have documents as hard copies. If electronic devices fail at your genealogy road trip destination, you will be glad you brought along copies of key research materials — such as these pension records for my paternal great, great grandfather Arthur Bull. Photo: Molly Charboneau

You don’t have to bring all of your research materials with you — just the ones pertaining to the ancestors you will be researching on this trip.

Here are a few tips on getting these materials ready before you hit the road:

Take your must-haves as hard copies. Print out a family group sheet for the ancestor(s) you will be researching onsite. Print out one pedigree chart covering the direct-line ancestor(s) who lived at your destination. Also pack a hard copy of your phone list and your research plan — including repository details, contact information and addresses. Photocopy pertinent documents from your files. Yes, paper is heavy — but when you are out and about doing research, you will be happy to have those hard copies if your device batteries fail, if there is no WiFi or if you want to jot down some notes.

Set up cloud copies of your materials. Think of all the possible documents you might need to refer to while on your genealogy road trip and make sure you have saved them in a cloud service such as Dropbox. Set up a genealogy road trip folder in advance and drag all the documents into it that you may need to look at while traveling — that way, you will only have to access one folder while on the road.

Make sure you have access to your family tree. Most genealogy software packages allow for viewing your family tree on your phone, tablet or computer — or all three. Test these before you go to be sure you will have access to your genealogy data at your destination.

Bring a few photos. My sister Amy and I made a family history visit to a farm where our family and maternal grandparents once lived. We explained to the current owners that we were on a nostalgia tour. But it was photos of us as children at the farm — thoughtfully packed by Amy, my travel partner — that convinced them we were for real. Bring copies of the photos to avoid damaging/misplacing the originals.

Don’t forget historic and cemetery maps. If you have hard copies, saved images or links to digitized historic maps of your destination, be sure you can access them on the road. The same is true of cemetery maps. You don’t want to spend precious time onsite hunting around for maps that could aid your research — so plan to pack what you need, either physically, on a device or in the cloud, for easy remote access.

Am I leaving anything out? If so, please let me know in the comments section.

Then join me tomorrow for the next Tip 7: Test and pack your gear. See you then!

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf at a time